California Attorney General Xavier Becerra recently issued guidance to California tenants, urging them to act fast if they will not be able to pay their full rent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This alert follows Governor Gavin Newsom’s executive order issued at the end of March that allows tenants affected by COVID-19 to delay their eviction process.
“The statewide stay-at-home order and critical social distancing measures necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have resulted in many tenants being out of work and in jeopardy of losing their homes,” said Becerra. “I urge families who are facing an inability to pay their rent due to COVID-19 to act swiftly and take control of their rights under the Governor’s executive order. The order allows certain evictions to be delayed, but tenants must act quickly or risk losing their rights.”
The attorney general alerts all tenants of the following aspects of the governor’s executive order:
—Tenants still owe rent; if you can afford to pay your rent, you should.
—If you cannot pay all of your rent, you must notify your landlord in writing right away and no later than seven days after the rent is due.
—You should gather and keep documentation showing your inability to pay your rent.
—Local measures may offer additional protection, since they remain in effect following the governor’s order. Research local eviction moratoriums that may apply in your area.
The governor’s order does not stop landlords from filing eviction cases. Until May 31, the executive order delays those eviction cases for tenants who cannot pay rent due to reasons related to COVID-19 if the tenants also take action to assert their rights. While the order is in effect, qualifying tenants who take the actions specified below may be able to obtain a 60-day extension of their time to respond to an eviction, and are protected against lockout by the sheriff.
First, tenants who will not be able to pay should notify their landlords in writing as soon as possible, and no later than seven days after the rent is due. The notice must be in writing and should say that the tenant is unable to pay the full rent due to reasons related to COVID-19. Tenants can find a printable form notice to send their landlords at www.oag.ca.gov.
Second, tenants should gather all documentation that shows their inability to pay, so that they can prove they are entitled to the protections of the Governor’s order. That documentation can include notices of layoffs or reductions in hours, pay stubs, bank statements, medical bills, or signed letters from the tenant’s employer or supervisor explaining the situation.
Third, tenants should be prepared to take quick action in the event that their landlord files an eviction case. Affected tenants should consult with legal aid or courthouse self-help clinics.
Additional Resources for Tenants
Many cities and counties have also taken action to help tenants during the COVID-19. In some cases, the local actions may provide tenants with greater protections than the governor’s executive order. These local actions remain in effect after the executive order, so tenants should check to see what protections apply where they live. Contact your local city or county website for further information on protections and legal resources in your area.
Tenants who receive an eviction notice or lawsuit and need legal guidance should contact their local legal aid organization, which they can find at https://www.calbar.ca.gov/Public/Need-Legal-Help/Free-Legal-Help.